Obituary: Handel Evans

AS A young man Handel Evans faced the choice of two careers, music and art. His considerable gifts as a pianist and as a painter would almost certainly have guaranteed him success at either but, perhaps rather curiously for a Welshman, it was on the visual arts that he chose to focus.

Evans produced a large body of fine paintings, drawings and etchings. Though his reputation has still to be established in Britain, where he rarely worked and exhibited, he made a much bigger name overseas, especially in Germany, where his work entered significant collections. A memorial show will be held at Korbach Museum from 26 March to 13 June.

Evans had long hoped for a significant exhibition of his work in Wales, and one somewhere in Britain is overdue for this most self-critical of artists. Solo shows at two London venues, Brown's Hotel in 1972, at the small Mario Flecha Gallery in 1982, and one at Clare Hall, Cambridge, in 1987, made modest impact, although his fine early drawing Dandies, Head of a Welshman was acquired for the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.

Handel Cromwell Evans - Cromwell was a family name - was born in Pontypridd, Glamorgan, in 1932. He studied painting at Cardiff College of Art from 1949 to 1954, where he was taught by David Tinker and Eric Malthouse. His "mentor" was Clifford H. Lewis, at whose School of Music he also studied, eventually becoming licentiate of the Royal Academy of Music. Lewis urged Handel's parents to sell everything if necessary to fund his study of the Alexander Technique, to improve his posture.

Evans inherited his artistic abilities from his parents. His father Joseph came from a family of singers, had a fine baritone voice and was a licentiate of the London College of Music. His son was born on Easter Sunday, a few days before Joseph was to conduct a choir of 2,000 voices in the oratorio Messiah, by George Frederick Handel, hence the boy's name. A daughter would have been called Melba. Initially taught music by his father, Handel Evans passed his first musical examination aged four years and 10 months, so small that the examiner had to lift him on to the piano stool.

Joseph Evans had failed, in mysterious circumstances, to win a scholarship for his singing in 1934, prompting a nervous breakdown and a resolve "never to sing another note in my life". Instead he became an elec- trician with the British Overseas Air- ways Corporation, which enabled Handel to travel extensively at a concessionary rate.

After studying with Lewis, Evans concentrated on art and spent two years in the Caribbean (1959-61), where he taught for a while. Otherwise, he lived by his painting. A one-man exhibition at the Institute of Jamaica, in Kingston, took place in 1962.

After a period in Germany and Italy, Evans attended the prestigious British School at Rome in 1962-63. His mother, Marian, a designer and fitter for West End couture houses, made all Handel's clothes. For Rome, she remembers him asking for a new overcoat, in the style of one worn by Sherlock Holmes, "needed in two days. I made it, and he wore it for years".

After further painting in the West Indies, London, Italy, the United States and Canada, and exhibitions in Jamaica (1964) and Barbados (Lyford Cay Gallery, Nassau, 1968), Evans spent 1975-76 studying etching with Stanley William Hayter at Atelier 17, in Paris. About this time he first met Eugene Garfield, founder of the Institute of Scientific Information in Philadelphia, who was to commission one of his most important works. Another exhibition followed at the Schubert Gallery, Marbella, in 1977.

Evans's style had been transformed over the years. His catalogue Paintings and Drawings of Three Decades, covering the period 1959-89, shows how his pictures moved from figuration towards abstraction with a figurative element. The early work done in Wales ranges across fine portraits in carbon to melancholy ink and gouache studies of interiors with a strong Neo-Romantic tinge. Figurative pictures completed in the West Indies are more robust and richly coloured.

The mid-1960s period in Grenada also included a large, highly complex drawing, Caribbean Village. In 1991 Evans was commissioned to do a version of it in casein tempera, which he regarded then as a stylistic anachronism, but which, he told me, was eventually resold for about pounds 50,000.

By this time Evans was well established in Germany, where he lived much of the time (he spoke excellent German) and where he had a string of exhibitions, beginning at the Kleine Galerie, Cuxhaven, in 1984. From the mid-1970s, the theme of man and technology had become important to him, and he pursued it at length, for example in his series The Employees and in Interpenetrations, the ambitious oil on canvas he completed for the Institute of Scientific Information in 1978-80, on which he worked in both the United States and England.

In the many variations on The Employees, tightly organised, asexual, faceless figures are painted in infinitely subtle colour gradations. Later in his career Evans was further developing this theme with a series of whirling, rotating pictures and works related to musical notation. Handel Evans wrote that for him "there is no greater affinity between man and nature than between man and machinery, which, after all, is man's own offspring . . . I see them as mutually dependent, and meeting each others' needs."

David Buckman

Handel Cromwell Evans, artist: born Pontypridd, Glamorgan 3 April 1932: died Thanet, Kent 5 January 1999.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch will voice Shere Khan in Andy Serkis' movie take on The Jungle Book

film
Arts and Entertainment
DJ Calvin Harris performs at the iHeartRadio Music Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush

music
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Mark Crown, DJ Locksmith and Amir Amor of Rudimental performing on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park, Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Capaldi and Chris Addison star in political comedy The Thick of IT

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judy Murray said she

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Seoul singer G-Dragon could lead the invasion as South Korea has its sights set on Western markets
music
Arts and Entertainment
Gary Lineker at the UK Premiere of 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Bale as Batman in a scene from
film
Arts and Entertainment
Johhny Cash in 1969
musicDyess Colony, where singer grew up in Depression-era Arkansas, opens to the public
Arts and Entertainment
Army dreamers: Randy Couture, Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren and Jason Statham
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off 2014 contestants
tvReview: It's not going to set the comedy world alight but it's a gentle evening watch
Arts and Entertainment
Umar Ahmed and Kiran Sonia Sawar in ‘My Name Is...’
Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
This year's Big Brother champion Helen Wood
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Full company in Ustinov's Studio's Bad Jews
Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Harari Guido photographed Kate Bush over the course of 11 years
Music
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
    eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

    eBay's enduring appeal

    The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

    'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
    Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

    Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

    Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
    Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

    Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

    After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
    Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

    Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

    After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
    Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

    Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

    Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
    7 best quadcopters and drones

    Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

    From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
    Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

    A descent into madness in America's heartlands

    David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
    BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

    BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

    Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home